Rural views--from a proud 's--t kicker'

By Martha M. Ireland

 Judging by reader responses, farming is your favorite topic.

    Winifred wrote mourning the loss of an old orchard. After the man who
lovingly cared for it passed on, the homestead was sold to urbanites who
promptly chopped down all the trees in the name of "cleaning up" the

    Not a rare occurrence. How can we discourage newcomers from destroying
the treasures they buy? A government program can't do it, but a
moving-in-day knock on their door might be a start. Try inviting them to
dinner and steering the conversation to finding out their plans and offering
your insights. ("You can't imagine how beautiful your place is when
everything's in bloom...We have a wonderful Master Gardener's
program...You'll love our Extension Agent...")

    Dave sent a magazine article about Joel Salatin. As it happens, we
purchased Salatin's book some years ago. The principles he uses on his
550-acre farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley aren't always easily applied
to five acres in Carlsborg, but we try. Dividing our field into small
sections and rotating the livestock through has greatly improved our pasture
quality, and reduced the quantity of hay we need to buy.

    Stan, a Sequim native who returned here after an urban career, loves
rural views and wildlife, but he isn't enamored of farming.

    "Give us a definition of 'normal farming practices'," he requests,
noting that "the s--t kickers are very much in the minority in number and
values of real estate owned, so public agencies permitting and controlling
community planning and development should be updating their doctrine as this
population is shifting."

    Oh, Stan, Stan--you tell me you're a conservative, but you want
government to restrict your neighbors' freedom, for your aesthetic pleasure?
You claim to believe in a republican form of government--rule of law that
protects minorities--but you demand a democracy where the non-farming
majority tramples the rights of the farming minority?

    "When does a farming operation, with the aid of all the modern machinery
etc., stop being a family farm and become an industrial activity with
round-the-clock activity, lots of noise, smells and pollution of air and
water?" Stan asks.

    Whoa! Farming has always been something of "an industrial activity."
Your neighbors have a four-generation family farm with modern machinery,
long hours, and the aroma of manure and silage to which you object.

    They are continually trying new crops and new methods in hopes of being
able to support future generations in farming. If they polluted their
environment, they would be out of business. Being good stewards of the land
is key to their making a living.

    Growing more common in this area are lifestyle farms, such as mine, that
provide some rural ambiance and contribute a bit to their own expenses.
We're not industrial, noisy, or smelly, but we can't make a living off our
style of farming.

    Decades ago, your family exercised its freedom to designate part of its
land for commercial development, part for residential, and part for wildlife
habitat. Those were right choices for you.

    Likewise, the Smith family chose to designate its rocky land in what
just became the Carlsborg UGA for commercial development, while keeping its
fertile fields in agriculture. Those choices should not be second-guessed by
their neighbors.

    Farming--by its very nature--is a sometimes noisy, sometimes smelly,
"industrial" activity. But we would all regret its loss if we had to go back
to subsisting as "hunter-gatherers."

    Those who find agriculture "downright sickening" and a "neighborhood
nuisance" will be happier living in cities where they can enjoy the
sanitized pastoral scenes displayed on their calendars.

    Those who choose to live in agricultural areas will be happier if they
adjust their attitudes to appreciate the realities of farm life. Even if
their view includes a silage pit covered with black plastic, held in place
by old tires.

    That's my opinion.
    But I'm just one of those "s--t kickers."
    And proud of it.

Martha Ireland served as a Clallam County commissioner from 1996-1999. She is a writer-editor by profession. She lives with her husband, Dale, and "critters" in the Carlsborg area. Her column appears in the Peninsula Daily News every Friday.

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site